Rigged is the story of Nathan (Kyle
Summercorn), a troubled young man with an anger management problem and an
addiction to fruit machines. Losing his temper following the loss of yet more
money, Nathan attacks a machine and gets himself an ASBO, thereby further
limiting his options.
The only good thing in Nathan’s life is his sparky
girlfriend, Sarah (Niamh Webb), a girl whose ambition will surely take her
away from the dead-end town where the play is set. The hope her love offers Nathan
is complicated considerably, however, when she becomes pregnant and the young couple find
they have to make some extremely tough choices.
Ashmeed Sohoye set out to write a play for young audiences
that would explore the issue of deprivation amongst white British working class
families. The points he illustrates with Rigged are very
valid ones: it is hardly surprising that a boy like Nathan goes astray given
his family history of illiteracy, abuse and criminality. Sohoye does his best
to offer a happy ending of sorts, but clearly this is no easy task. The odds
are stacked against Nathan and those like him and there appears to be no
obvious solution to the quandary that British society finds itself in.
The cast of four - Daisy Whyte and Paul Clerkin
join Summercorn and Webb to play Nathan’s mother and adoptive father - should be
praised for their sensitive portrayal of often difficult material and Natalie
Wilson’s direction is refreshingly original. All of the actors play additional
roles, often playing two sides of a conversation; this device can fall on its
face but here illustrates successfully the social and educational divide
between the family and those they come into contact with. Wilson also succeeds
in addressing her young audience without resort to patronising techniques. This
play is accessible to young people from the age of 14 but also has plenty to offer adult audiences.
Neil Irish’s set and Aideen Malone’s lighting design combine to provide a simple backdrop to the action that lends itself
well to the imaginative work done by the actors.
Sohoye is an experienced writer and his naturalistic
dialogue reflects this, but at times Rigged feels like the
work of a more inexperienced dramatist. The play is crammed so full of issues
that few of them are ever fully explored. Nathan’s mother has recently turned
to evangelical Christianity, for example, but no explanation is given as to why
she has done so or why it has affected her thinking about her son in the way
that it has. There is something cynical and lazy in the convenience of this
plot inclusion that takes away from the play’s thoughtful consideration of
Nathan’s experience. That said, Rigged offers young people a
way into a tricky topic that certainly deserves some discussion.